Advice from a Child Life Specialist: Structure & Routine during the Holidays!

If long shopping lists, holiday parties, family gatherings, concerts, parades, pictures with Santa are some of the to-dos on your list, then, you’re not alone. ‘Tis the season to over-indulge with friends, family, coworkers and even strangers! But, if you’re wondering how you’re going to survive it all with your kid’s routines gone by the wayside, here are a few things to think about…

Why do kids need a routine?

Routines help your kids prioritize the world around them
It doesn’t have to be a strict, unchangeable, militant schedule but, a solid routine that helps your child move through the day knowing what’s ahead of them. It will help them feel less anxious and more confident throughout the day. This is especially true for younger children. Your child may want to play now, but by letting him know that he will have be able to play in the afternoon, after his nap, will help facilitate a healthy accommodation which takes his feelings into account as well.


Routines give kids a sense of security
By taking cues from nature starting and ending their day the same way every day, you can maintain a sense of normalcy during chaotic days. A predictable routine can helps kids fall asleep more easily at night and wake up refreshed, no matter where they are. It is teaching them the lesson that their bodies are to be respected, food and sleep nurture their bodies. The better your kids sleep, the better you sleep, too. And, by connecting with your kids, whether it be snuggling with them in the morning, or tucking them to bed at night, you are reinforcing their trusting instincts as well as building their security.

Routines help parents avoid the “bad guy” trap
We are all too familiar with the daily power struggles with our kids. The holidays only seem to exacerbate these moments. By maintaining a normal schedule during this time of the year, you can greatly reduce the nagging and bickering that seems inevitable. The parent stops being the bad guy and the routine becomes something that you do at this time of the day. Remember, routine equals normalcy.


Structure doesn’t always have to be oppressive. Sure, there are times when rules are meant to be broken, like staying up late to make cookies for Santa, or waking up early to open presents. And, let’s face it, sometimes kids just need to be… kids. As a parent, you are their best advocate and no one knows them better than you. But, when you see cranky, out of control behavior from your child, you know that their routine has been disrupted and you must get them back on track. By setting a routine for your young child you’re creating the foundation for them to learn to self regulate and create their own routines as they grow older.


RalhiRakhi Kreymerman, is a child life specialist living in Cary, North Carolina with her husband and two kids. Her background includes working at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio and the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is also a yoga instructor for kids ages 2-12. For more information, email her at or send her a message through the comments section of this post. 

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